Sep, 2015: David Ferrando Giraut

  • David Ferrando Giraut Catoptrophilia

    2013. Digital animation with stereo sound, 12’14”

    Catoptrophilia is structured around the encounter between two objects belonging to two distant historical moments: an Egyptian hand mirror from the New Kingdom (1400 BC) dedicated to Hathor, goddess of beauty, and an iPhone 4 Elite, released by Apple, California, in 2011. The piece stresses how the human tendency to create images has depended, from ancient times to the present day, on the supply of mineral resources. The result is the emergence of a system of slavery in which a dominant class (aristocracy in the past and citizens of the so-called first world in the present) has access to the creation of its own image—an image, which, in return, exerts a different type of submission, of dependence, on them.

  • David Ferrando Giraut 2nd Nature

    2014. Digital animation with sound, 6’34” (Collaboration with Ryoko Akama)

    2nd Nature depicts a collection of vases from different cultures and moments of history. Their shapes are revealed only as the water fills them, creating an interplay between the scene and its background, made up of different CGI shots of the ocean shown through the content of the vases. This piece belongs to The Handling of Water, a project that reflects on processes of knowledge development that sees culture as an articulation of the material environment in which History takes place. Just as an original, primeval utterance was articulated throughout millennia to give birth to language, this project proposes culture as the ongoing interweaving of thought and material, and the mastering of this interrelation.

  • David Ferrando Giraut Loss

    2011. HD video, 16:9, B/W and colour, stereo sound. 16’07”

    LOSS reflects on processes of image recording, both psychical and technological. It expresses a nostalgia for lost realities that are only accessible through images, and for aspects of lived realities that have been lost during their transformation into image.

  • David Ferrando Giraut Cry Wolf (Making of)

    2007. PAL video, 4:3, colour, stereo sound. 9’06”

    With practices such as the dérive and concepts like psychogeography, the Situationists defended a ludic use of urban space, reclaiming human values by subverting spaces that are geared to productivity. Now that our living space has been not just amplified but even replaced by a series of referents of the real, we could perhaps keep a degree of humanity by assimilating and subjectively reusing these referents.

  • David Ferrando Giraut Night of the Living Dead

    2006. PAL video, 16:9, colour, stereo sound. 9’34”

    Night of the Living Dead deals with a contemporary perception of the landscape, heavily influenced by the media but also linked to the tragic spirit of the Romantic vision of nature. By showing popular horror movies in real, familiar landscapes, the artist reflects on how media images come to form part of our own personal memories, influencing perception of our immediate reality.

David Ferrando Giraut (Negreira, A Coruña, 1978) has a degree in Fine Arts from the Universidad Politécnica de Valencia and an MFA from Goldsmiths College, London. In 2010 he was one of the eight video artists selected for the LUX Associate Artists Programme in London. His work has been shown both in galleries and museums (The Green Parrot in Barcelona, Galería Bacelos in Madrid and Vigo, LABoral in Gijón, MARCO in Vigo, Tartu Kunstimuuseum in Estonia and the ICA in London, among others) and on film circuits (IndieLisboa, the Rotterdam Film Festival).

His work, centring mainly on video, sound and installation, stands at the intersection of various conceptual threads, such as the hybridization of natural elements, technology, and socio-political organization and its management throughout history; the tensions between representation and represented reality; the aesthetic experience as a cognitive tool; a questioning of the modern concept of temporality, and a search for continuity, employing notions such as transversality, Proustian reminiscence, ruin, and their parallels with audiovisual recording.

First of all, could you briefly describe your training, between Valencia (Spain) and London (UK), particularly the aspects you think have marked your work?
After studying Fine Arts in Valencia, where I lived for 10 years, I moved to London to do an MFA at Goldsmiths. In terms of education, the two experiences were very different. The most obvious difference is that the Spanish system is still linked to a very traditional artistic education, whereas in the UK it’s taken for granted that what art schools teach is contemporary art, regarded as post-conceptual, a kind of art that doesn’t go back much further than 50 years. This means two totally different approaches. On the one hand, the level of involvement with work in critical and theoretical terms is much greater, more rigorous and in touch with the present moment on a course like the one at Goldsmiths. You really appreciate that coming from a Spanish degree, as well as the fact that it’s very much geared to the particular interests of each student. It also has its downsides, though. In terms of education, it’s a paradigm example of the type of mentality that tends to ignore everything that happened before modernity—in this case, late modernity, as there’s practically no room even for the historic avant-gardes. For undergraduates, it’s as though almost nothing artistically relevant occurred before Robert Smithson. Then, practically all the emphasis is on the discursive aspects of the work, and there’s a kind of tacit disregard for the aesthetic dimension of the artwork. Personally, I think this is representative of contentious issues in the field of contemporary art that go beyond education. We have to remember that its assessment criteria are based on the beliefs of the English-speaking world: a radical distinction between body and mind, along with a rejection of aesthetics; a kind of politically correct—but hypocritical—austerity that is seen as intrinsically positive. Personally, I feel the time has come to propose alternative models, as the current one has ultimately produced an elitist form of art that is quite separate from society, a rather grudging art that takes refuge in political slogans and forms part of the commercial machinery. Remember, it was also English-speaking countries that invented capitalism.
On the degree course in Valencia, where I studied painting, it was almost the opposite: scant contact with the cultural present and an almost exclusive emphasis on technique. In many senses it was an anachronistic education. But it did give me the chance to concentrate on a specific medium and develop a profound relationship with a language. Over the years I’ve exchanged painting for photography and then audiovisuals, but I’ve kept that concentration on language.
I feel lucky to have such different experiences, and I think that the future—in many other fields, too—should move towards the integration of models.

In your work we see a tension between “the old and the new”, analogue and digital. We’re also intrigued by the passage from real image to digital animations, involving new tools. How has your way of working changed?
Yes, there is a tension there. There are two fairly clearly defined phases in my work: from 2006 to 2011, and from 2011 to the present day. The first phase—which ended with LOSS—looked very closely at the idea of audiovisual recording as ruin and the way in which the human tendency to create mental images and remember had an industrial correspondence throughout the 20th century, in audiovisual recording and reproduction technologies. That led to a particular emphasis on the analogue technologies of that time, and their obsolete nature.
In the work I’ve produced since 2011, especially since 2013 with the introduction of digital animation, the tension you mentioned is sometimes less explicit, but sometimes even more so: analogue devices tend to have disappeared and be replaced by digitally generated images. This language is related to the present and to the visualization of future projects—which is what this technology was originally invented for. It’s a malleable type of language that basically lets you create plausible images from ideas, introducing parameters by means of which the computer constructs images. Personally, I’m interested in its potential to create new, seamless visual links and elements that shape our contemporaneity, which, due to production and organization systems, are presented to us as disconnected and alienated from their origins, perhaps in a distant country or age. It’s a kind of language that allows you aesthetically to recreate a time-space continuity that the aesthetic experience of the kind of society we live in tends to fragment, making reality hard to understand.

Political issues have made their way into your work. Is this a recent development, or have they always been there?
They’ve always been there to some degree since I started working with video, but perhaps they’ve become more explicit in recent years. I tend to think that working to give a considered, personal viewpoint of the reality you experience, and trying to make it comprehensible to others, is intrinsically political; for me, that’s what making art or cinema is all about. That’s why it seems inevitable that “politics” should have appeared more obviously in recent years. Apart from that, I’m rather tired of the way the label “political art” is used; it’s gone wild, like a commercial label. In the present-day situation, it might be more effective to leave behind the political correctness and do something more “irresponsible” and more popular that has the potential to move people. The art that has most changed my life is rarely explicitly political.

You move between two circuits that sometimes seem mutually exclusive: the ART institution (galleries and museums) and the CINEMA institution, such as film festivals. What differences do you see, for example in the way your work is received?
In general, mostly because of my training, I’m much more familiar with the contemporary art world. I have shown my work at film festivals, in the experimental sections. Actually I don’t take part in festivals as much as I should, mostly because I’m not as familiar with the circuit and I’m rather absent-minded about the dates. But I do think it’s good to step outside the world of contemporary art, which tends to work with a series of rather strictly defined values, and there’s a degree of complicity that is not always positive; sometimes it accommodates things that people outside the contemporary art would wouldn’t swallow—and with good reason. Conversely, I do feel that the world of what we might call conventional cinema—even sometimes experimental film, though obviously less so—is excessively bound to accepted forms and is more conservative. Of course, I may be wrong.

Images like ruins, inorganic images, immobile images, frozen images, perpetual, immutable images. Images that have been excised from the course of time, recorded by humankind for centuries using countless techniques; an exclusive and intrinsically human behaviour. But all incapable of capturing reality in all its complexity. Humans cling with absolute conviction to these images, giving them a central role in their lives and delegating to them a responsibility they can never fulfil. Because these images ultimately lack any kind of will or intention per se; only the human being who interprets them can instil a breath of life, if only for a fleeting moment.

How is our imaginary shaped? In what way is it like our existence? In what way is it different? Can we turn the assimilation of external references into a subversive act? David Ferrando Giraut proposes an exploration of these issues in works such as Cry Wolf (2007) or Night of the Living Dead (2006), videos that somehow emphasise the influence of cultural references mostly originating in the mass media. The question that arises as we become aware of this influence is how much of the responsibility lies with the image? And with the creator of that image? And with the spectator? And their mental images? Where do we put them? What place do they occupy in our lives? If, as Rancière says, “producing an image is always, at the same time, deciding about the capacity of those who will look at it”, the result becomes (for better or for worse) completely unpredictable.

These contradictions about the image and its inherent incapacity to represent faithfully a past that is gone are addressed by Loss (2011). The artist’s voice-over speaks of a past that he did not live and describes the objects that his parents brought with them from Venezuela in 1975 (before he was born): record player, records, home movies, a Super-8 projector. The narrative is suggestive of the story of Krapp, Samuel Beckett’s character who endlessly explores his past by playing a series of tapes on an old tape recorder. A past that seems alien to him, that he remembers little and poorly, and sometimes dislikes. Somewhere between weariness and melancholy. And so, very imperfectly, the images act as mediators between us and the reality that we slowly forget or have never known.

The work of David Ferrando Giraut uses allegory as a way of speculating on the relation between image and the reality it represents. In 2nd Nature (2014), images of a digitally generated ocean and vases from different epochs that are gradually integrated into that ocean manifest the contrast between nature and technology, reflecting on knowledge throughout history and the way we understand culture. Then, in another recent work, Catoptrophilia (2013), it is the minerals manipulated by humankind that serve to produce an image, a reflection, a mask. Polished obsidian, copper, bronze, silver, sheets of glass backed by aluminium or mercury. Elements capable of showing us an image that is ever more exact, but never perfect. The impulsive, persistent need to observe our face, turn ourselves into effigies, to exercise a stolen power, to colonize and therefore set ourselves at a distance. Attitudes that are maintained over the years, in spite of distances. How much coltan is needed to make all the mobile phones in the world? How many people have to die to achieve that?

Marla Jacarilla (visual artist and writer)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>